Oof, geez Sara, start off with an easier question why don’t you…
There’s a lot of pressure to be less than honest in our society, sometimes out of necessity, and sometimes for sake of social convention. How many of us have had conversations that go something like this:
“How are you?” Polite inquiry (usually asked by someone who doesn’t actually want to know how you truly are…)
“Oh, I’m fine.” You respond, despite having just put down your beloved pet yesterday.
YEP. BEEN THERE.
Yes, sometimes you don’t really want to get into all the details of your personal life with a stranger. But other times, it just feels taboo to even attempt honesty about hard stuff. Which means we don’t talk about it. We shove it away and pretend it’s not a part of each and every one of our lives.
Yet, on some level, we all crave authentic human connection.
I definitely wanted to hear about authentic, honest experiences of others when struggling with my own losses last year. (Recap: In about a year long period, our dog Bingley died of cancer; my father in law was diagnosed with ALS and died 6 months later, and my husband and I faced fertility struggles, all while I was trying to grow a business...it was A LOT to contend with.)
I found the things that got me through were the honest reflections and creative works from others. Rapper Dessa came out with a new album, and subsequently a memoir that just SPOKE to me; the book We Know How This Ends by a man dying of ALS reminded me to try to see the moments of beauty in the midst of intense grief; and the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking shared stories of people who had been through immense loss and hardship.
And all of the creative works that I resonated most with dealt with the hardship honestly. They talked about how grief can just slam you like a freight train out of nowhere, and how much it hurts to watch someone you love slip away.
But they were also encouraging. They recognized joy and laughter can happen WHILE you’re in some of the hardest days of your life. They acknowledged the shared human experience of loss and how it connects us all, even when our society wants to hide the hard stuff away and pretend it doesn’t exist because, guess what, IT’S HARD.
So this year, living honestly means a lot of things to me.
It means - first and foremost - taking care of myself, and those around me.
It means asking myself questions like: Is what you’re putting out into the world in alignment with your values? Are you putting your time and energy into places, people, and things that bring meaning to your life? Are you being empathetic to the experiences of others?
It means working hard, but never harder than necessary. Obsessive work distracts from truth.
It means taking the leap even when it feels scary because there are lessons to learn in the free fall.
It means staying strong and true to myself, even in the face of criticisms - especially my own.
It means loving large and freely. Even - especially - when loving deeply invites the heart-wrenching ache of loss.
As poet Rupi Kaur puts it:
i learned love is about giving. everything. and letting it hurt. i learned vulnerability is always the right choice because it is easy to be cold in a world that makes it so very difficult to remain soft.
(the sun and her flowers, p. 193)
So that’s what living honestly means to me this year: Remaining soft with others, and true to myself.
What does living honestly mean to you this year?
I encourage you to ponder this question, and if you'd like to share your own creative response to the question, please do! Use the hashtag #HonestlySeries on Twitter or Instagram.